WHY NOT? INDEED!

If you have been following my Briefcase Op/Eds or the Open and Obvious blog, you may recall that in March of 2017 I penned an installment entitled MY OCBA IS ALREADY GREAT!. If you choose, you can find that on the OCBA Briefcase archive or on the Open and Obvious blog site at https://openobvious.wordpress.com/. The reason for this reference is that County Bar President David Cheek has asked your County Bar Board two questions at the recent board meeting. The first is why do you belong to the OCBA and the second is why do others not belong to the OCBA. These are great questions for every member. Back in March I tried to point out in a succinct manner all the great benefits of OCBA membership including, but not limited to, mentoring, social interaction with Judges and other lawyers giving back to the profession, proximity card courthouse access, CLE and being part of a social justice and community service initiative of the County Bar. Apparently, this article did little to motivate an increase in membership. My pen/keyboard now meet reality and it begs the question, WHY NOT?
I realize that the likelihood of a non-member reading publication this is slim, so I am relying on you members to circulate the Briefcase to non-member lawyers you know. Better yet, ask them why they do not belong to the OCBA and let the OCBA know what we can do to increase membership in your professional association. First off, I am not listening to any complaints that County Bar dues are too expensive. The Oklahoma County Bar dues rate has not been increased in forever and is probably the cheapest bar membership you will ever have, certainly much cheaper than your gym membership that if you are like me you do not use. Save your email or phone call if that is your beef.
Moving on, the demographics of non-membership are hard to pin down. Many young lawyers straight out of law school and passing the bar exam get involved in Young Lawyer’s Committees of our Bar and others. These always seem to be a draw as these groups are both social and usually have a community service/social justice return involved. Another big hint, new admittee membership is free. From there, the Young Lawyers jump into regular Bar service mostly because they are forced out by age. Then the picture gets murky.
Interest in belonging seems to wane across all age groups of attorneys. I have already listed some really good reasons and benefits of OCBA membership. Tell your law partners, colleagues and other attorneys that you know about the OCBA. Encourage others to join. Take an active part in OCBA events, CLEs and social gatherings. Enhance your practice and work life satisfaction through OCBA membership. Inform your board of some tasks or perks to consider for the future mix of OCBA membership benefits. Share your Briefcase or blog or the Open and Obvious blog with others. It is not just about dues, it is about professionalism. I look forward to hearing from you, but while I am waiting, consider the following.
This discussion lead me to the top 10 Why Nots of October 2017 (most difficult to not be political or cynical here):
1. Why Not have fast access to the courthouse with a County Bar proximity card
2. Why Not socialize with other lawyers at the OCBA golf tournament, chili cook off, or Holiday Reception
3. Why Not meet Judges at the Beach and Bar Conference
4. Why Not get inexpensive content filled CLE at the OCBA
5. Why Not get involved in community service through any of the OCBA projects
6. Why Not join and encourage all Oklahoma County lawyers to join your OCBA
7. Why Not do something nice for a stranger
8. Why Not treat each other civilly in all things
9. Why Not be the best you can be; and
10. Why not the Brodie forever!

 

Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit http://www.hbokc.law.

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DOES THE LAWYER MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

DOES THE LAWYER MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Typically, I address lawyers making a difference in their community, our profession, and among family and friends. Today, I’m going to take a different look from the perspective of litigation outcomes. This discussion was prompted by an article I ran across online in Slate entitled, Do Court Room Lawyers Make a Difference? The premise of that article was a pair of well-known judges debating the importance of attorneys in trial outcomes. The article began with a statement:
Slate is running a series of monthly dialogues between two of the nations’ most esteemed jurists, Richard A. Posner and Jed S. Rackoff. These conversations are moderated by Joel Cohen author of the book Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide.
This discussion is one near and dear to my heart. I was not surprised that these two distinguished jurists reached the conclusion that case results stand on their facts and not upon a particular lawyer’s skills. Please read that discussion as I use it only for an introduction to my topic, which I’m sure will lead to more discussion among lawyers. To be fair, the discussion seems to focus on criminal cases more than civil.
Most trial lawyers I know have a little bit of ego. Seemingly, the more successful the lawyer, the larger the ego. I think many if polled, would disagree with those judges’ view of the effect of lawyers on a case result. Also, these judges did say that in a close case the skill of a lawyer could make a difference. I read with great interest that the average law firm partner now charges well over $500 per hour. I also read an article in the local newspaper quoting an Oklahoma City law firm partner’s rates at $800 per hour to represent a local independent trust authority. This information immediately sent me back to renegotiating fees with clients supporting those requests with claims of superior lawyering skills.
Not surprisingly, those judges believe that the judge has a big role in the jury trial. I was brought along in my practice with the thought that the judges were the unbiased protectors of the law, juries, and justice. Experience, none the less, tells me that some judges believe they have to level the playing field or allow all sorts of advocacy (skilled or not) in order to give the parties equal opportunity for justice to be done. Somehow, that does not square with the idea that the lawyer’s relative skill set is unimportant in more than 90% of results (the not close cases). Moreover, most lawyers I know that do marketing are selling themselves, their trial record, and their skill set to potential clients. A common belief among non-lawyers is that the party with the deepest pockets and most expensive law firm can win or at least delay a negative outcome. Also, the premise of the Slate blog installment seems to fly in the face of those who pay money for titles such as “Best”, “Super”, “Superior Rated”, etc. I regularly hear on the local radio and see on TV, lawyers who include in their advertising recovery amounts for clients in the past and cumulative recovery numbers for all time. Doesn’t all of this marketing infer that the lawyer’s skill makes some difference in the outcome?
I’m not criticizing the judiciary for being hands on, hands off, experienced, or even inexperienced. I have seen trials where judges are ultra-protective of jurors and the civil jury process while others essentially let everything go, allowing the attorneys to build into the case their own error should they dare to cross those lines. But, I do argue that all of these types of judicial conduct, just by the fact they are taking one position or another, lend credence to the point that the lawyer’s skill level does affect outcome.
At the very least, a lawyers negotiating skill can affect settlement terms and amounts. Many cases that result in litigation, began as a client’s failure to engage lawyers at the outset of a transaction or deal. Maybe the contract writing and negotiation skills lawyers have at the time of the transaction will impact the ultimate result. I would ask our ADR professionals their thoughts on the issue but I am betting that they hear too many lawyer value added arguments and war stories intended to influence settlements to argue the point. It seems a common occurrence to overhear a lawyer talk about making something out of nothing or holding the verdict amount down despite everything being against them. Lawyers now even attach their strategies to a successful mentor in hopes of elevating their position based on that mentor’s achievements.
Surely all of this talk is not baseless chest pounding. I simply can’t think of a scenario where the lawyer’s skill level does not impact the outcome. Some skill is certainly required in making and arguing evidentiary objections, presenting testimony, and obtaining a set of jury instructions. I can’t imagine that any judge would allow the use of a defective set of jury instructions; however, many cases I see reversed on appeal are done so on the basis of jury instructions given at trial. Maybe all of this is just ego speak? After all, most clients already know, if you have dragons, you need to use them. But it does not hurt to also have facts, law, and a lawyer who knows their case.

End Notes:
1. Joel Cohen, Richard A. Posner, Jed S. Rakoff; Do Court Room Lawyers Make a Difference?(July 31, 2017), http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/07/posner_and_rakoff_debate_whether_courtroom_lawyers_ever_make_a_difference.html
2. Cohen, J. Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide. Chicago: (2014)

 

Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit http://www.hbokc.law.

YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL, ACT LIKE IT

YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL, ACT LIKE IT

I was recently reminded of the high level of professionalism and respect with which we should treat the American judicial system and each other, when I was sworn in as a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. I highly recommend this endeavor should you have the opportunity. As part of an American Bar Association group, I attended the first Monday in June Supreme Court announcement of decisions and swearing in. In the group were other members of the Oklahoma Bar including another member of the Oklahoma County Bar, two Tulsa lawyers and two McCurtain county lawyers. Coincidentally, I had met almost all of them previously. Happily, the nominator/sponsor for our group read the names of applicants by state of Bar membership and alphabetically. This seemed to add to the high view of the occasion.
On that Monday, decisions were read by Justice Kagan, Justice Alito and two by Justice Sotomayor. They were all unanimous opinions. No 5-4 splits or polarizing disputes on this Monday. OCBA member Kerry Maye keeps track of these things and tells me that over the years the average is just above 80% of decisions are made with 6-3 or higher affirmative votes. Chief Justice Roberts masterfully supervised the session. Afterwards, our group was fortunate enough to have 15-20 minutes with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who answered questions and met with us. She did not have to do this but chose to do so. She is my oldest daughter’s, who is a practicing lawyer in California, legal hero. She would have loved to switch places with me and hopefully she can someday. I also obtained an autographed biography of Justice Sotomayor, who spoke to our local law schools a few years ago. Justice Ginsberg is extremely small and speaks softly. We were warned not to bump her and cause her to fall. I can just imagine that headline. She lit up when discussing her summer travel plans that sound absolutely exhausting. She was delightful. I have a deep abiding respect for her position, the person she is and the function she fulfills as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
As a litigator and trial lawyer, I see lawyers push lines in the name of advocacy on a regular basis. Also, attorneys comment on social media about jury verdicts and legal issues when they apparently have no factual bases or legal knowledge to support their opinions. I was recently in court before one of our newer Oklahoma County District Court judges and noted several lawyers who did not stand up when making announcements for a motion docket. That was unheard of when I was a young lawyer. If you were the unlucky one who failed to stand up you were usually called out for it in front of the rest. Many of the old rules have gone away, most for the better. However, respect for the judge and court have not and should not pass by. It is likely that all of this conduct contributes to the loss of civility and respect with which we treat each other.
I have included a photo of the John Marshall monument located in the Supreme Court building on the first floor. On our trip we were able to tour several areas of the building and study its history and architecture. Chief Justice John Marshall, although he was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is widely known for his impact on the Supreme Court and its role in government. His quotes are inscribed in court rooms across the U.S., his name on high schools, his cases foundational studies at law schools, and many of them are easily recognizable, such as: “As men whose intentions require no concealment generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our Constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said.”
Seemingly, plain spoken words of clear intent continue to have value 200 years later. Another take away from the Supreme Court tour was that our actions reflect on our profession. The architecture, history and decisions of our highest court parallel the growth of U.S. culture. If you fail to respect our judicial system including judges, jury verdicts and other attorneys, then regular people without law degrees cannot be expected to respect them either. They will follow your poor example of adding to the noise. Justice does not mean that your side wins or that the jury verdict is always in your favor. Justice means that the American judicial process has concluded with a result. Also, our nation’s capital has an abundance of great restaurants and good eating (in case you were wondering).
I recently read in the Washington Post excerpts from Chief Justice Roberts’ commencement speech at his son’s ninth grade graduation from a private prep school Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire. His comments generally focused on young men of privilege to be humble and loyal. He hoped they would have adversity in life so that they would know how to handle success. Objectively speaking, it was a very good speech given the age and the audience. A much broader audience than those ninth grade boys, Justice Roberts is in a position of power but may well be sending a much needed message to others.
Treat others with professional behavior and demeanor. I encourage you all to do a better job commenting and posting social media that displays our profession as honorable and respectful. After all, most of us have taken an oath when sworn into the Oklahoma Bar, the federal district court bars, possibly the Tenth Circuit Bar, other State Court Bars and maybe even the Supreme Court of the United States. Those oaths should mean something. For your consideration is the Oklahoma Lawyer’s Creed:
I revere the Law, the System and the Profession, and I pledge that in my private and professional life, and in my dealings with members of the Bar, I will uphold the dignity and respect of each in my behavior toward others.
In all dealings with members of the Bar, I will be guided by a fundamental sense of integrity and fair play.
I will not abuse the System or the Profession by pursuing or opposing discovery through arbitrariness or for the purpose of harassment or undue delay.
I will not seek accommodation for the rescheduling of any Court setting or discovery unless a legitimate need exists. I will not misrepresent conflicts, nor will I ask for accommodation for the purpose of tactical advantage or undue delay.
In my dealings with the Court and with counsel, as well as others, my word is my bond.
I will readily stipulate to undisputed facts in order to avoid needless costs or inconvenience for any party.
I recognize that my conduct is not governed solely by the Code of Professional Responsibility, but also by standards of fundamental decency and courtesy. Accordingly, I will endeavor to conduct myself in a manner consistent with the Standards of Professionalism adopted by the Board of Governors.
I will strive to be punctual in communications with others and in honoring scheduled appearances, and I recognize that neglect and tardiness are demeaning to me and to the Profession.
If a member of the Bar makes a just request for cooperation, or seeks scheduling accommodation, I will not arbitrarily or unreasonably withhold consent.
I recognize that a desire to prevail must be tempered with civility. Rude behavior hinders effective advocacy, and, as a member of the Bar, I pledge to adhere to a high standard of conduct which clients, attorneys, the judiciary and the public will admire and respect.
End Notes:
1. Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheaton) 1 (1824)
2. Robert Barnes, Washington Post; https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/ July 2, 2017.
3. http://www.okbar.org/members/EthicsCounsel/LawyersCreed.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit http://www.hbokc.law.

CHOOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

CHOOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

At the recent OCBA Law Day luncheon, key note speaker Judge Clancy Smith of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals left the crowd with the closing statement that “As lawyers you all have such powers to make a difference in people’s lives. I encourage you all to use it.” Now that is a worthy and sometimes forgotten challenge. Coincidentally, in the weeks just prior to Law Day I had the privilege of hearing the story of Oklahoma District Court Special Judge Allen J. Welch, Jr. at the 10 year anniversary breakfast of the Trinity Legal Clinic organization. I have known Special Judge Welch since law school where he graduated a few classes ahead of me but I did not know of any specifics of his background and journey to law school.
Judge Welch has presided over the probate and guardianship docket for the last 6 ½ years at the Oklahoma County District Court. He has been a Special Judge at the Oklahoma County District court since 2004 and is located on the second floor. Before that Judge Welch served as Assistant General Counsel at the Oklahoma Bar Association for 10 years and before that was in private practice. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma Law School and was sworn in to the Oklahoma Bar Association in May of 1985. He and his spouse, Cindy Welch have 2 daughters ages 20 and 23. All in all, Judge Welch’s career path looks pretty clear and easy. His back story is anything but that, and also provides an example for other lawyers that each of us can make a difference.
Much of the guardianship docket involves life changing decisions and sometimes decisions that will affect future generations of family. The significance of this is not lost on Judge Welch. As a 15 year old, Allen J. Welch, Jr. stood before a guardianship judge who made a decision that affected the trajectory of Allen J. Welch, Jr. and future generations of his family. Judge Welch is much too humble a person to have this story built up as some sort of rags to riches, made for TV documentary. In the interest of privacy I am leaving out some details. Let’s say that Allen J. Welch, Jr. had been in a messy place and a judge of the court decided that there was a better place for him to be. At that moment in time lawyers were staged to make a difference in young Mr. Welch’s direction. In place was a lawyer volunteer representing the minor before the court and the Judge of the Court who made the decision.
Later in the story, another Oklahoma County lawyer became involved in directing Allen J. Welch, Jr.’s future trajectory. That lawyer encouraged him to go to college and later to go to law school. That lawyer even went as far as to seek out available scholarships from a college and have a letter sent to young Welch with tuition options for higher education. Welch graduated from East Central University in 1980 and later went to the University Of Oklahoma College of Law. However, that journey might not have begun but for the lawyer who took the time to pay some attention to this young man, seek some solutions and give him advice. Oklahoma lawyer volunteers made a difference in Allen Welch’s young life.
Judge Welch is now in a position of looking at children who are in a messy situation that he was once in, and deciding whether they would be better off in a different situation. Typically, those children are represented by volunteer lawyer advocates from the OCBA. Getting involved in Oklahoma Lawyers for Children , Youth Services for Oklahoma County , LASO or CASA of Oklahoma County are things we can all do. Attorneys took a small amount of time to invest in a young Allen Welch. Now, Judge Welch, is making similar life changing decisions for others but other attorneys need to be present for the process to occur. You can effect change by getting involved in volunteering in many of the local social and service projects associated with the Oklahoma County Bar Association. Take some time to look them up on the internet and sign up.
If you have a probate, guardianship or incompetency hearing for adults on Judge Welch’s docket, don’t fear the Court. Judge Welch is extremely friendly and helpful. A few years ago I helped some people with a step-child adoption and Judge Welch was incredibly helpful. As a trial lawyer, I don’t get much adoption work. Judge Welch did make sure everything was done according to rule and statute and somehow I managed my way through it. However, these people could not have completed the process without a lawyer volunteering time before the court. I encourage you to do the same, represent!

End Notes:
1. http://trinitylegal.org/
2. http://www.olfc.org/
3. http://www.ysoc.org/
4. http://www.legalaidok.org/
5. http://www.oklahomacasa.org/

 

 

 

 

Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit http://www.hbokc.law.

JURY SERVICE PLEASE

JURY SERVICE PLEASE

Near the end of 2016, a family friend of mine served on a criminal jury in a high profile trial in Oklahoma County. She is a highly-educated professional with a working professional husband and four children. All of her children are out of the home and she had told me she actually wanted to serve on a jury. Typically, I talk to friends who ask me if I know how to get them out of jury service which then launches me into my jury service and the American judicial system soapbox. I am also aware of many websites on how to “avoid” jury service. I do not know of any sites that talk about proudly serving on juries. I hear the same people who don’t want to serve complaining that jury verdicts are wrong or what they believe are wrong findings by jurors as they come in on cases which are splashed across the daily news. We do not really know the facts of those cases, what happened at trial or even whether the result was correct or just. In most cases we only know what the news media reports which usually contains a lot of misunderstandings of the judicial system, facts and the law.

            As lawyers, we should give our friends and family positive feedback on jury service and encourage them to serve. Many times I hear the complaint from other lawyers that jury pools are not representative because many educated working class people are able to “avoid” jury service. Who can blame people in their overly scheduled lives and busy jobs for not wanting to spend a day or two at the courthouse for nominal compensation? No one wants to be away from home and family for the time it takes to serve on the jury. I am sympathetic to the situation because as a lawyer in a jury trial I put in double or triple that amount of time, but I also understand that for every verdict that makes news stories and headlines there are dozens of regular citizens with common sense who chose to not participate in the system. This means the decisions are made by others who may reach the wrong conclusion or might get it right. You do not know whether it was really a crazy wrongly found verdict or not.

            Tell your friends and family when they ask that there are two ways of participating in the American system, voting and the jury system. If they really want to have input into the system, they need to appear for jury duty, stay on a panel rather than try to get thrown off and be one of the jurors who sits through the entire trial hearing the evidence and deciding the verdict. Until they do that, they really do not know whether a case is wrongly decided or whether your fellow citizens who did do jury duty got it right or wrong. The Seventh Amendment is unique and special. We are in danger of letting its fruits slip away. Encourage others to accept and carry their jury service out to the fullest extent when they receive a notice for jury duty.

            After all, if they like listening to alternate fact scenarios and speakers who like to hear themselves talk, they will love a jury trial. In all seriousness, our judicial system really is based on the common sense of the participants. If the people participating are not representative because the educated and employed are able to get out of jury service, then the system has a flaw which can affect verdicts. Juries are intended to represent the diversity of our community in all ways. For some reason, the voice of every mediator I know sounds off in my head at this point asking the standard opening question: Do you really want to risk your business/money/life/insert subject with a jury of twelve people off the street of X county? Even considering that, do your best to be positive and supporting of jury service since it is your and my clients that are risking their future outcomes in the judicial system. After 30 plus years of jury trials you learn to have faith in the jury system or you should not be in this profession. Tell anyone that will listen that jury service is a proud part of the American way.

 

 

Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit www.hbokc.law.

MY OCBA IS ALREADY GREAT!

 

I have taken a couple months off from writing/blogging for the Briefcase and Open and Obvious? to consider the vast volume of rants and other written communication via social network, legitimate media outlets or political administrations that have come our way since November 2016. During this time AI continues to take over human life and the legal profession, Bull remains on network television, some ABA resolution aimed at decreasing the number of law schools failed, private information has been hacked and we have a lot of judicial vacancies. In considering all of this fear-mongering, I have reached a couple of conclusions I wanted to share with you in a peaceful and non-provoking way. First, the OCBA is a great professional organization and worthy of your involvement. Next, now as much as ever, words have meaning and accuracy and the proper use of words should not be overlooked, especially by professionals.

 

          As our state legislature is back in session and addressing again how Judges are selected, the OCBA has created and distributed a PowerPoint for the use of its members in educating local civic groups on the function of the Judicial Nominating Commission (“JNC”). This PowerPoint is exceptional and you can tell that much time and effort was put into its production. I am not writing here to argue that we have the best and brightest judiciary, after all they are lawyers just like the rest of the Bar with different levels of education, experience and individual demeanor. Nor am I saying this to be critical of our judiciary or our selection process, in fact to the contrary, I am a proponent that our selection system is as good as any. I encourage all of you to learn as much as you can about the JNC so that you can spread the word among your non-lawyer friends and family that our judicial selection system could be much worse if the legislature makes some of the proposed changes. Simply by looking at other states where judges are solely political appointments or solely the result of an election process, we can see the good and bad of the other methods of judicial selection. Our system is a bit of a hybrid but gets us where we need to be with a fair and unbiased bench. OCBA in supporting this educational effort concerning the JNC is playing a significant part in educating voters. Please educate yourself and support this effort.

 

          The OCBA is again involved in the Ask A Lawyer program, seeking volunteers for the April 27th OETA session. Ask A Lawyer has been a staple of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the OCBA’s efforts to assist Oklahomans with legal issues on or around Law Day. You can be a lawyer volunteer answering caller’s questions regarding a wide range of legal issues. This event provides an excellent service to the citizens of the State of Oklahoma and deserves your support.

 

          Finally, the OCBA’s Bench and Bar CLE scheduled for March 31st at Sequoyah State Lodge near Fort Gibson puts its members in an education and social setting to learn from and interact with District Court Judges, Federal Judges and State Appellate Justices. You cannot ask for a better opportunity to get to know the lawyers you are working with (and against) and the judges you are appearing before. This type of social interaction in our profession is a must for us to be a successful Bar. We, as a profession, tend to rely on the adversarial model to solve everything. In fact, as most of you know, the majority of litigated cases settle without trial and most disputes are resolved without a Court hearing. Many times this simply takes picking up the phone and talking to opposing counsel, which is much easier to do if you have met face to face and have a relationship. The same goes with appearing before the bench. Typically a lawyer’s reputation, skills and tactics are presented to the Court before their in person introduction, by the written work product that a judge reviews before a hearing. A lawyer’s best trait might be to be known as ethical and trustworthy. The ability to properly use the English language in case submission is also a nice skill. This is something that must be maintained in your written and spoken work. Do yourself a favor and get to know the bench you practice before, don’t rely on spellcheck and always proofread.

 

          In these tumultuous times, littered with 144 character rants, it is satisfying to know that the association that we voluntarily joined is doing great. The current OCBA leadership, Judge Barbara Swinton, and the future leadership, David Cheek, put our profession first. Take advantage of opportunities provided by the OCBA, and most of all, let your non-lawyer friends, relatives and neighbors know that we are a proud and ethical profession.  Next month we will get back to something topical for your practice like jury selection. I thought this topic would be better than me filling the internet with art.  But for now, let’s make sure we open the envelope with the real winner’s names before we start congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

 

 

 

 

 

          Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit www.hbokc.law.

 

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad!

Tis the season! The end of 2016 is finally upon us. I say finally because I have memories of end of year 2014 great expectations for the year 2015. Then as the year 2015 drug along, I once again had great expectations of the year 2016. Then comes 2016 with all of its glory. After surveying the happenings of 2016, it seems to boil down to the Cubs win the World Series and look what comes with that. No, mullets are not back!

          As I have continued writing these monthly articles, with some encouragement from others, for the OCBA and the Open and Obvious? blog, it now appears to me that good things come in triples or even triple doubles. For example, 1) Don’t kneel to Negan, 2) Don’t let a Lannister lord over you, and 3) You don’t really want to find out who Wyatt is. But there are better sets of three out there than that. As we bring 2016 to a close, we should set goals for 2017 to make ourselves better, the people around us better, and our profession better.

          You can accomplish these goals in many ways, but I have a few suggestions. Get involved in OCBA and OBA Bar related activities. Our profession needs and requires a strong Bar. Not only can you keep yourself up to date on ever changing laws, regulations and ethical requirements but the social aspects of the Bar are also important. In a recent discussion I had with an opposing attorney I have known for around 25 years, he expressed to me gratitude for the situation that we were comfortable picking up the phone and calling each other to resolve questions and differences we had in ongoing cases rather than to resort to writing fax letters and nasty grams. It is a lot easier to do this when you actually know your opponent. Embrace technology in the practice of law, as it is even required by the new comments to our ethical code, but don’t forget the power of face to face meetings.

          Give back to the community which we serve. Not only should our profession be devoted to the civil justice system but also to social justice. I cannot begin to list all the excellent charities and activities in and around the Oklahoma County/Oklahoma City metro area, but there are many worthy of your time and financial support. We choose 3-5 every year at this time to make special donations to as a Firm. Social justice is a very important aspect of our professional lives. If you cannot volunteer then provide financial support so that others can carry out justice for those who have fallen through the cracks of societal supports.

          I have found that participation in Bar related education opportunities provided by the OCBA are meaningful in several ways. These opportunities range from talking with at-risk middle school kids about rights, laws and the civil justice system to presenting awards to Law Day essay contest winners in AP Government high school classes. The wide range of opportunities and lack of opportunities in our education system and the potential impact you can have goes from the impoverished with very few chances of success to those who have already planned out their educational and professional careers. It is both eye opening and rewarding. Find the opportunities and get involved. Again, I cannot list them all here but it is gratifying to observe the many examples of service from other members of our profession from different practice areas, different firm sizes and solo practitioners as they are involved in their own social justice projects and charitable giving. Unfortunately, most of these activities aren’t newsworthy so the public does not hear about them, but we as a profession should continue and advance our involvement.

          Finally, concerning a lawyer’s place in society, remember your sworn oath as an attorney and the ethical code that controls our professional conduct. Of all of the citizens in the United States who should know the Rule of Law, the U.S. Constitution and fight to protect them, attorneys are the chosen few. We occupy a special position in the American system of justice and guard its foundation, the right to jury trial. This is no small or unimportant task. Consider these things as you determine your own triple double goals for 2017.

          Be safe, enjoy the college football bowl season and Go Thunder!

          I want to wish you a Merry Christmas! And a Happy and Peaceful New Year! 

 

          Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email mbrewer@hbokc.law, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit www.hbokc.law.